Are you taking your mental health days off from work?

November 5, 2020

Even before the “new normal” of working from home, many American workers have been doing the job of two or three people. The days of working on a team have been reduced to being a team of one. Companies have been trying to determine how to increase productivity without increasing manpower. Economists use terms such as “right sizing,” while business executives now commonly use phrases like “trimming the fat.”

All of these are just deviant ways of corporations creating more work without adding the expense of more people. Looking at the schedules of many American workers, ten-to-twelve-hour days are becoming the standard and the phrase “work-life balance” seems to be a thing of the past. In looking at the world pre-COVID-19, how many workers were coming in earlier and leaving later? How many have reduced their lunch time or don’t take a lunch at all? What has happened to the walks to clear your head? Do you miss the talks at the water cooler?

Are we sacrificing our mental health for the sake of being more productive? Are companies creating burnout so they can cash out? The question American workers should perhaps ask themselves is, “Are you taking your mental health days from work?” With over 30 million Americans out of work today, how many of the working class are concerned with taking time off to simply recharge, regroup and relax? People seem to understand vacation days and sick days, but personal days are something many people still question.

Personal time off is that time to do what you want, and whatever you like without feeling guilty. Corporations make decisions all the time sans any guilt. Compared to other nations, the American worker takes far less time off. Not taking those mental health days can lead to more anxiety, stress, anger and fear. These emotions can result in instability and challenges when it comes to one’s mental state. Taking time to unplug and leaving working behind can be rewarding and just what many American workers need. Imagine having a day with no e-mail, voice-mail, phone calls or text messages— just taking the time to be with yourself.

The question that should be asked is if the Black community taking enough time away from work to focus on self? How many people of color choose not to step away from their jobs because of the stereotype of laziness that has been historically and unfairly leveled against Blacks? How many times have Blacks heard the statement that they must “work three times harder than everyone else?” When we look at economics, is it a matter of affordability in the Black community to take time off? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Black workers are less likely to have paid sick days than white workers.

In this chaotic world of racial injustice, the political and health crises and economic challenges, taking a mental health day should be an imperative. Take time and be fine with leaving work behind. When you return, don’t be surprised if you amaze your employer with bright ideas and heightened productivity. The time is yours, so be sure to use it.